Great Lakes Coast Guard has another busy weekend of boating under the influence enforcement

Great Lakes Coast Guard NewsCLEVELAND — Coast Guard boarding teams throughout the Great Lakes region terminated the voyages of 27 vessels this weekend, of which 12 were because the operator was found to be under the influence of alcohol.

Of the 12 boaters who failed field sobriety test or had a blood alcohol content above the legal limit, many were issued citations or taken into custody by local law enforcement authorities.

Boating while under the influence is one of the top five reasons why boaters did not come home safe in 2011. The other four reasons are drowning, weather, excessive speed, and overloading of the vessel.

A boat operator who consumes alcohol runs a significantly increased risk of being involved in a boating accident.

“The marine environment adds stressors such as motion, vibration, engine noise, sun, wind and spray that can accelerate a drinker’s impairment and can greatly affect a boater operator’s judgment, vision, balance and coordination'” said Cmdr. David Beck, chief of enforcement for the 9th Coast Guard District.

Boat operators are not the only ones at grave risk — passengers who are under the influence can drown while swimming from anchored or adrift vessels.

Alcohol continues to be a leading contributing factor in recreational boating accidents, injuries and deaths. According to the Coast Guard’s Recreational Boating Statistics 2011 report, the most current validated statistics available, alcohol use was determined to be the leading factor in 16% of the deaths in 2011.

The Coast Guard and every state have stringent penalties for violating BUI laws. Penalties can include large fines, suspension or revocation of boat operator privileges, and jail terms. The Coast Guard and the states cooperate fully in enforcement in order to remove impaired boat operators from the waters.

“Operating a boat under the influence of alcohol threatens the safe and enjoyable use of our waterways,” said Beck.

Tips for Avoiding BUI —

Boating, fishing and other water sports are fun in their own right. Alcohol can turn a great day on the water into the tragedy of a lifetime.

Consider these alternatives to using alcohol while afloat:

* Take along a variety of cool drinks, such as sodas, water, iced tea, lemonade or non-alcoholic beer.

* Bring plenty of food and snacks.

* Wear clothes that will help keep you and your passengers cool.

* Plan to limit your trip to a reasonable time to avoid fatigue. Remember that it’s common to become tired more quickly on the water.

* If you want to make alcohol part of your day’s entertainment, plan to have a party ashore at the dock, in a picnic area, at a boating club, or in your backyard.  Choose a location where you’ll have time between the fun and getting back into your car or boat.

* If you dock somewhere for lunch or dinner and drink alcohol with your meal, wait a reasonable time (estimated at a minimum of an hour per drink) before operating your boat.

* Having no alcohol while aboard is the safest way to enjoy the water — intoxicated passengers are also at risk of injury and falls overboard.

* Spread the word on the dangers of BUI. Many recreational boaters forget that a boat is a vehicle – and that safe operation is a legal and personal responsibility.

Click here for more information on boating under the influence.

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